Leader Blues

Monday, February 12, 2007

SPORTS >>Six local athletes sign dotted line

By JASON KING
Leader sports writer

Three departing Jacksonville seniors signed letters of intent to play college football on Wednesday morning during an assembly at the Devils Den. Quarterback Daniel Hubbard, defensive end Norvel Gabriel and wide receiver Marcus King all picked up scholarships to play on the next level, with two of the three former Red Devils staying local.

Hubbard and Gabriel will remain in state for the next four years in the central Arkansas area. Hubbard (6’5”, 245 lbs,) signed with Henderson State to play for the Reddies, while Gabriel (6’4”, 230 lbs,) pledged across town from Hubbard at Conway’s University of Central Arkansas to play for coach Clint Conque.

King’s scholarship takes him the furthest distance. The 6’4” 200 lb, receiver will play Saturday football in Kansas starting in the fall at Fort Scott Community College.

Most of the JHS student body was on hand for the signing Wednesday. Athletic director Jerry Wilson started things off with a short speech about the contribution the three young men have made at the school and in the community over the past few years.

“This doesn’t separate them from any of you,” Wilson told the student body. “Scholarships are a dime a dozen, but to have the chance to continue your education and do what you enjoy, that’s the best case scenario. You notice that I didn’t introduce them as football players, I introduced them as student-athletes, because being a good student comes before anything.”
The three players all took their turns addressing the crowd, thanking friends and faculty for the support they have received during their tenure at Jacksonville High School. Head coach Mark Whatley also spoke briefly, commending the three for their contributions to the team.

All three had plenty of accolades during their time as Red Devils. Hubbard made All-Conference in both his junior and senior years, and was named to the All-State team his senior year.

Gabriel is perhaps the most decorated of the three, with an All-State award, an All-Star Game invitation and was named outstanding lineman in the 6A-East Conference. King was named to the All-Conference team for 2006.

After the three signed, Wilson addressed the crowd again briefly before dismissing, stressing the importance of academics. “Guys, I’m telling you, it’s all about those grades,” Wilson said.

“I hope for all the younger people that look at this, that they understand,” Whatley told The Leader. “We have a lot of kids that have an opportunity to go and play on the next level, and these three have worked very hard in the classroom to keep their core GPAs up. They performed on the ACT test to qualify immediately.

“You usually find that the people who are disciplined on the football field are also usually disciplined in the classroom as well. That’s what these college coaches are looking for. They were great to coach, and I think that all three of them are going to have a great career at the next level. I’m definitely going to miss them. They were good players, but they are also good kids, and were good leaders. They were all very dependable.”